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Since the European elections last month, we’ve been talking to politicians and journalists to get their views on how the vote went in different EU countries. We’ve already published interviews looking at the election results in the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Greece. Today, we’ll be looking at France.

The shock result in France, of course, was the Front National receiving almost 25% of the vote – giving them 24 out of France’s 74 seats in the European Parliament. An impressive increase compared to the three seats they won in 2009. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party of President François Hollande, the centre-right opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), and the French Greens all came off badly.

Why did the Front National do so well? And will they be able to reproduce these results in a national election? We recently spoke about the results with François Beaudonnet, a French journalist working as Brussels correspondent for France 2. Why does he think the Front National did so well?

Beaudonnet2I think it was easy for people to vote for the Front National because it doesn’t have a direct impact on their daily lives. Europe is seen as very far away and, in any case, they know that Eurosceptic parties won’t have a majority in the European Parliament. It was a way of showing that they don’t agree with the general evolution of Europe today, and it was a vote against the elites… People saw financial scandals, they saw elites behaving badly, and so they said: “That’s enough”. In addition, the Front National has never been in power in France, so French voters thought: “Why not?” The Front National also has a much clearer identity compared to other mainstream political parties.

We also asked him if he thinks the Front National will be able to reproduce these results in a national election. In the 2012 elections, the Front National gained two seats (out of 577) in the French National Assembly. The next presidential and legislative elections in France are scheduled for 2017. Could we see President Le Pen?

Beaudonnet2No, I don’t think so. It will be very different. Again, people thought they were allowed to vote Front National because it was a European election and would send a strong message but wouldn’t have a real impact. We will not have the same result at the national level, so there is no possibility of a French president coming from the Front National. I think we’re not there yet. Of course, if the French political situation keeps on deteriorating then the situation at the national level might be different in a few years. But, for the moment, I don’t think this vote can be reproduced at the national level. They are two different things.

What can mainstream parties do to fight back? Is immigration the number one issue for voters in France today? We asked Francois Beaudonnet if he thinks that a tougher approach to migration from the government could stop the rise of the Front National:

Beaudonnet2I don’t know if this would be enough… I think the solution to the rise of the Front National is to give French people back their joy of being French. Currently, there is an incredible sense of pessimism in France among politicians and citizens that feeds into the support for Front National. I do not see this pessimism in other European countries, apart from maybe in Greece. And this is crazy! France has incredible qualities and assets. The day when a party comes to the stage who will be able to give hope back to French citizens, and show that France can stop losing jobs, losing ground, and that France can be a winning country – this will be when the Front National starts losing ground. I think this is the solution. It’s not all about immigration; among the 25% that voted for the Front National in France, not everybody is absolutely against immigration.

Finally, we wanted to know what issues were covered in France during the election campaign. What was the political discussion like in the weeks before the elections? Was there mention of the future of Europe, or were the parties more focused on immigration and the economy?

Beaudonnet2Immigration was one of the issues but it was not the main issue. The general feeling during the campaign was very anti-European; the political discourse was around the fact that Europe deals too much with minor things and not enough with important issues. It was said, for instance, that there are too many silly regulations on the size of cucumbers and tomatoes and not enough attention being paid to what’s happening in Ukraine. This kind of argument was very much present and all parties said more or less the same thing on that. The economy and the euro were important campaign subjects as well. Actually, the big themes of the campaign were dictated by the Front National; since the night of the municipal elections (the last elections before the European vote) Marine Le Pen has started talking about Europe. The other parties followed.

Why did the Front National doing so well in France? What can mainstream parties do to convince voters to return? Will the FN be able to replicate their success in the national elections in 2017? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!



39 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar
      Cuthbert Smythe-Jones

      @Jaume Roqueta
      Europe is NOT full of fascists – although some countries are more culturally predisposed to RACIST/FASCIST POLITICS eg France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain.

    • avatar
      Byron Sanford

      Exactly

  1. avatar
    Patrice Puchaux

    They won’t be in power. But for their result I think it depends on the situation. If the election was for today the fn would be 2nd or maybe 1st, but they couldn’t win. Now 2017 is far, so that depends if the situation evolves,if our gouvernment successes or even if radical left and far left can or cannot gather populism voices. I don’t think Europe is full of fascists but i think it’s full of angry people who despair and give up politic; so if we could make politic more attrative the fascism will decrease.

    • avatar
      Arte

      Vive le Front National!!!

  2. avatar
    Jorge Qoqe

    As the distance between richs a poors grows, the extreme-populist parties grows also

  3. avatar
    Pietro Moroni

    Because Hollande’s Parti Socialist should have known that socialism in one country is still better than socialism in no country. After Sarko’s radical campaigning France became more extremist, thus, after his defeat, there was a good climate for far right parties.

  4. avatar
    Fadlon Mesimi

    because Europe does not do his duty, citizens need direct democracy !
    we want to deicde us for our future..

  5. avatar
    Pier Dal Ri

    It is socialism on both sides, the difference is that the left one is dangerous and against work the other one is still to be tried

    • avatar
      JW

      It HAS been tried. WWII ring any bells?

  6. avatar
    Cuthbert Smythe-Jones

    Perhaps the FN won because France is fundamentally negative towards ‘others’.

    For instances, look at:

    ‘Paris Syndrome’,
    the 2013 Pew research findings about ARROGANT France,
    its EU sponsored pro-France i.e. biased news channel Euronews &
    its negative diatribe toward all things Anglo-Saxon.

    Unfortunately, at the end of the day FN just reflects the [disturbing] mindset of a significant proportion of French people.

  7. avatar
    Wojciech Wielki

    what its scares me of them is their jacobinism and absolute despreciating attitude towards native european minorities, and also its antisemitism

  8. avatar
    Aimilia Marsellou

    Because there is no serious left, socialdemocrats have adopted the neoliberal agenda, and because of their stance in the IIWW they never had a crystal clear stance towards facism.

  9. avatar
    Emilie Falk

    Well, the mainstream parties helped to validate their neo-national political agenda by adopting some of the issues into their own agenda’s in the hope that they would get some part of their electorate back. Once mainstream parties act to adopt these oversimplified view of culture, people, and the functioning’s of society, then they lost the fight against extremism, radicalism, and populism – I think we have to rethink the merits on which we judge politicians if they feel the pressure to get elected and act in this way to do so. I wish more politicians would advocate a different attitude towards the perception and inclusion/exclusion based on ethnical origins, language, and religion.

  10. avatar
    Byron Sanford

    The Front National will take more than 25% of the vote in the first round of the next presidential election as well as in the National Assembly election. VIVE
    LA FRANCE!

    09/03/2017 Paul Taylor, Contributing Editor at Politico and former European affairs editor for Reuters, has responded to this comment.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    The French feel, as do the British, and many other across Europe, that they are overwhelmed by mass immigration from all parts of the world and all cultures. As a result, they are are convinced they face cultural genocide. The French population do not want to live under the rule of such policies, which this political extremism is creating in them, it is the same fears of many throughout the EU. They have a feeling of statelessness, as if they are living in another man’s country, whilst desperately trying to get back home.

    And they cannot understand why the political leaders, a) wanted to create this situation in the first place and B) why they are not dong something about it poste haste. C) why their political leaders want it to continue. D) Lastly, they blame the EU as their countries leaders tell them they can do nothing to change it as being part of the the EU stops them

    If that is true, then the EU is to blame for it. And if they do not do something to change this drastically, the divide will increase and the EU will be smashed once again into fragmented pieces.

    • avatar
      Bert van Santen

      Perhaps the Front National has no capacity to govern France, but the current political parties made a even bigger mess of it.
      Unfortunatly, not only the French politicians but also in the other EU countries the politicians are not listening to their voters.

  12. avatar
    proactive

    …..for none French to listen, for French to make us understand….

    But- by observing the massive dissatisfaction & disillusionment because our individual European identities & trust are being hijacked by sterile Brussels’, our national social security fabric is being threatened & replaced by EU’s “Supranationalism”, and “multi speed” integration! That begs the question:

    Have the original good intentions of the EU architects- then French lawyers Reuter & Foreign Minister Robert Schuman drafting “The Schuman Declaration in 1950”- to make future wars in Europe “materially impossible” – not been misused, sidestepped, hijacked through an “invisible process’ by the 2nd generation politicians?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schuman_Declaration

    A questionable army of lobbyists sprung into action: why is the son of US Vice President- Hunter Biden on the Board of “Burisma Holdings” of Ukraine’s Gas & petroleum Corporation- amidst a civil war and east/west confrontation?
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/08/ukrainian-energy-firm-hires-biden-son-as-lawyer/

    Why is Tony Blair part of the greedy global lobbyists (UBS)?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1498117/Tories-call-on-Blair-to-explain-link-with-City-financier.html

    Or ex Barclays Bob Diamond’s Libor rate misdeeds- planning similar rip offs now in Africa: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/magazine/robert-diamonds-next-life.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    How much truth is there about- Freemasons, the Illuminate, supra neo liberals? One thing is for sure, global corporatism, banks and unethical politicians are all part of this evil axis and all need to be prosecuted & not just fired!

    That explains & justifies the rise of radical lefts and rights & challenges those with ethics to act!

  13. avatar
    Marcel

    Because politicians and central banks have been enriching the rich since 2008, at the expense of the poor and middle class.

    Because politicians want to abolish national democracy by transferring powers to the undemocratic EU (EuroSoviet Union).

    Because politicians want to sign ‘free trade’ treaties that end up seeing hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear in our countries.

    Because IMF/EU/ECB imposed UNDEMOCRATIC government policies have had a devastating impact on ordinary people.

  14. avatar
    ironworker

    Why did the Front National do so well in France?

    Magrebians and Gypsies + an incompetent Francois Hollande + Merkozy. Wonder why France become so voiceless since krauts start dominating Europe. What the heck happened with La Belle France since Sarkozy? It seems like they are in induced comma. IMHO they supposed to keep Germany ambition steam to a reasonable level, instead I found a lobotomised inert France accepting and even encouraging krauts to rape Europe. It’s just weird.

    • avatar
      Alex

      Well if you can t beat them,join them ;)

  15. avatar
    Ferghane Azihari

    When everyone preaches the same religion, it is that which is claimed some more which attracts the most faithful. French people will stop being nationalist when French officials are not it anymore.

  16. avatar
    Alex

    Well if the french want to be nationalist,then let them be.Who are we to tell them how they got to be?As long as they re not about to sent tanks everywhere or a-bomb everyone,it would be democratic legitimate decision(like in switzerland) to reduce migration.Like in all mainstream media.Democraty is only for leftist ideology ,but if somebody says he s afraid of living in an area where mostly migrated people tend to segregate to,then it s a nationalist and noone cares for democracy or free speech

  17. avatar
    marie-gabrielle

    the national front did so well because the years gone by have been a mirro image of the years before the nazis starting gaining support in germany.
    the correlation sees the extremist parties feeding on the tiredness of the french and german people respectively, all the immigrants coming in form around the world, taking jobs and living space.
    what one has to realize is that extremist support doesn’t come at once, but is generated over years, and i think now the french have come to a breaking point, and its not only in france, i mean even greece there ha been an increase i neo-nazis, something that no one obviously wants but we have to realize that unless something changes within the european government and the way it is run and its rules on immigration and elfare benefits, nothing will change and we will more likely end up in the same situation as germany was in before the second world war.

    • avatar
      Alex

      No not like Germany…Your country got nuclears–>It s worse

  18. avatar
    crayven

    French nazis.
    The french were always a bit nationalistic in their rhetoric but to go this far. How the mighty have fallen. I had more respect for France but not anymore after this.

    Good thing is the lunatics don’t hold majority to do any harm.
    And in the long term the simple fact that they cannot change anything will prove their undoing as their entire voter base expects results ASAP.

    That being said, the European crisis DOES mirror the great depression of the 1930s. Only this time Germany is less extremist than the rest of Europe.
    How ironic.

    • avatar
      Theharmonicaman

      Dear Crayven,

      Firstly the French are not Nazis. FN has in no form anything to do with national socialism. Besides, the French majority did not vote for Marine le Pen, something so simple you seem to forget ( so that even if there was a French national socialist party with the same amount of votes, one still could not declare all Frenchmen Nazis ). Secondly politics change constantly, and the shift towards the right has been happening sinds the nineties. This economic crisis of ours does not resemble that of Germany in the interbellum, nor the crisis of the thirties in general. The rises of the right in western Europe was already developing before our economic crisis. Alas things are not so easy.

      Greetings,

      Theharmonicaman

  19. avatar
    Theharmonicaman

    Dear Debaters,

    I think that the political upperclass considers it self as democrates, but are practically paternalistic autocrates, disrespecting the common man’s opinion. I have a few reasons for this assesment. The rises of what the political establisment calls ‘populism’ is sparked by public unrest. This reasoning implies that the common man somehow panics and makes choices that are bad for him. One can read through the lines that the common man, the basis of democracy, is considerd incapable of making choices.
    Can anyone remember mister Petro Poroshenko signing the economic part of the U-EU assosiation agreement? Mister Poroshenko brought a pen on wich a date was inscribed of an earlier meeting were the agreement was not signed. He explained that he wanted to use the pen again, to show that the agreement and the pro- European course of the Ukraine were inevitable. With big smiles mister van Rompuy and his comrades approved. Europe’s history became something deterministic. Determinists are dangerous. Determinists can not be democrates.

    Greetings,

    Theharmonicaman

  20. avatar
    Theharmonicaman

    Dear all,

    I think that a great catastrophy has been taking place in the last decennia. Once, long ago there were kings. Even longer ago there were nations. And now there are nations again. But, oops, the rises of the nation states since the Atlantic revolutions, made politics, war and idealism a public enterprise. The grand finale was ofcours the Second World War. Since the Second World War we have had our troubles with concept. We have been traumatised. We needed new politics wich stood for the equality of all. We needed a new state, the EU. And we said goodbye to the self-determenism, the identity of nations, ourselves. Infact, our frends in the universities helped our abolishment of national identity by making it fake. Social scientist developed a vocabulairy in wich the national identity was something fake, something pressed upon all of us. Something that did not really excist.
    It can never stay this way. Politics change throughout history and the nation state is on the rises once again. The universities are starting to reapreciate the nation state. Peoples again make they re claim for self determenism. There are, however, some problems. What to do with the great floods of immigrants? To great has been immigration for the European stomach to digest. To many have been imported by our previous generations in a pathetic attempt at suicide. Or we face these problems like adults, or great sorrow might befall our nations.

    Greetings,

    Theharmonicaman

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